By AYOOLA OLAOLUWA
The Chairman of HEIRS Holdings, Mr. Tony Elumelu, is rewritten the experiences of entrepreneurs in Africa, from crashing and closing shops in the first three years, to creating jobs, wealth and improving the general well-being on the African continent with the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP).
The African entrepreneurship space had witnessed a massive upsurge in the last two decades, with businesses, especially Nigerian startups becoming the toast of foreign equity investors.
However, despite the huge leap in entrepreneurial activities, Africa had earned the unfortunate moniker of ‘graveyard of new businesses’. For every business that survived infancy and rose to prominence, scores must have fallen by the way.
According to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Nigeria, 8 out of 10 (80 percent) entrepreneurs in Nigeria who start businesses fail within the first 18 months. The same, Business Hallmark findings revealed, applied in other African countries.
The high failure rate of start-ups and SMEs had been traced to myriads of challenges, including the right skill sets to grow their businesses, lack of adequate funding and harsh government policies.
Worried by the sector’s failure to attain its potentials of contributing significantly to job creation, economic growth and reducing poverty in the continent, Elumelu had moved in to change the narative with the establishment of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP) in 2015 with the sole aim of producing Africa’s finest entrepreneurs.
The TEF entrepreneurship programme has seven pillars primarilly designed to ensure success for an African entrepreneur.
The pillars include Mentoring; Knowledge Resources on TEF Connect.net; 12-week business management training; Meet ups; Annual TEF Entrepreneurship Forum; Seed Capital Funding and TEF Entrepreneurship Programme Alumni Network.
According to Elumelu, Africa’s private sector can and must play a leading role in the continent’s development.
TEEP was precursored by the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) which was established in 2010 as an African private-sector-led philanthropy in Africa to champion entrepreneurship and growth of entrepreneurs across the continent.
The foundation did not fully kick off until 2011 when it launched The Elumelu Professionals Programme, an internship programme for MBA students graduates.
This was followed by the launch of the Tony and Awele Elumelu Prize, a programme focused on promoting academic excellence and entrepreneurship.
Though TEF followed up with several schemes, including the provision of seed funding for 20 tech businesses through CC Hub in 2012; the launching of the Tony Elumelu
Entrepreneurship Programme, a $100million commitment to initially identify and empower 10,000 African entrepreneurs with $5,000 grant, create 1 million jobs, as well as adding $10billion in revenue to Africa’s economy over 10 years in 2014, was the final piece in the puzzle.
The scheme was officially kick-started in 2015 and in less than seven years of being established, TEF had catalysed the biggest entrepreneurship revolution the continent has ever experienced.
Realising the positive impacts the scheme will have on the continent, development partners across the world are rushing to partner with the foundation. The partnership had resulted in expanding TEF’s originally set out support to 1,000 entrepreneurs every year to 5,000.
Also, instead of the 10year timeline set for the programme, it will now go on as long as its necessary.
In spite of several challenges on its way, especially the COVID-19 pandemic which had continued to disrupt events around the world, the foundation is not deterred in pushing ahead with his established aims and objectives.
At the peak of the Covid19 pandemic in 2021, the foundation disbursed $24.75m to 5,000 African Small and Medium Entrepreneurs (SMEs) for the TEF 2021 Programme.
As at June 2022, the foundation has funded a total of 15,847 entrepreneurs across 54 African countries who in turn had created more than 400,000 direct and indirect jobs.
Beneficiaries were also provided capacity-building support, advisory and market linkages to over 1.5million Africans through the foundation’s proprietary digital platform,
The Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme is open to entrepreneurs across Africa: new start-ups and existing young businesses.
In January 2022, the foundation started the registration process that will give opportunities to young African entrepreneurs to win a seed capital of $5,000 each in the year.
Application is open to Africans from all 54 African countries with scalable business ideas or a business that has been operational for no more than five years. However, applicants must be 18 years of age and above and must have business ideas or a nearly stage company from 0 to 5 years old.
Successful entrepreneurs are required to go through TEF training content called the start-up enterprise toolkit, a programme tailored to support young and dynamic entrepreneurs through their business journey with focus on the successful execution of their business plans and ideas.
The training is self-paced for each entrepreneur, allowing the necessary flexibility for participants to attend the training course whilst carrying on their usual activities.
While the training phase of the programme last for 12 weeks, some intervention programmes are modified to last for four weeks or six weeks. Some of the beneficiaries lauded the intervention, describing it as a life saver.
A Nigerian entrepreneur who specialises in providing professional accounting and allied services to entrepreneurs,
Emmanuel Olabisi, said “I’m highly excited because this is what Nigerian and African youths have been waiting for a long time -somebody that will draw the youths up and follow them up with training and all other resources that are needed to make one grow.
“In fact, this is a very fantastic opportunity for Nigerian youths. They’ve trained us for twelve weeks on various business processes and how to administer a business successfully.
“They’re still supporting us with $5000 seed capital. Apart from that, the networking opportunity they provided for us has been awesome,” he stated.
Another TEF beneficiary, Lungile Marhungane, CEO of Jesu Puro Water, said: “Before the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme, my water company suffered financial setbacks. Since TEF support, I have purchased new machines and impact more communities to ease the water purification process.
“I deliver clean water to villages that lack access to clean water at an affordable price. TEF grant was a dream come true for a great opportunity and me. More people should partake, this is the most innovative platform in Africa.”
Also, a 2015 beneficiary of TEEF, Hauwa Liman, Founder of Afrik Abaya, said, “I am always proud to say that I am from the inaugural cohort of the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme.
“My business is located in Kaduna, in northern Nigeria. I benefitted from this Programme in 2015, and it opened up lots of doors and opportunities.
“It is not just about the seed capital, but what really fascinates me about the Programme is the knowledge.
“I call it a mini-MBA programme, because from the ideation stage it teaches you how to really articulate your business, and it gave me my first business plan.
“The network, visibility and opportunities are endless. My entrepreneurship experience cannot be complete without the Tony Elumelu Foundation.
“I will start exporting to other countries soon courtesy of the Foundation. We now employ ten permanent staff and an additional eight staff on a commission basis.”
The founding Trustee of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, Dr. A V. Elumelu stated: “Through the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme, we seek to democratise luck.
“Hard work plays an important and undeniable part in success, but one must not discount the role of luck – someone being willing to take a chance on you or business idea by empowering you through training, mentorship or funding.
“Our hope is that, through the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme, we would help the next business leader or captain of industry be whom they are meant to be.
“This is our own way to give back and also to empower the generation coming behind us so that they can go even further than we have.
“As a parent, one’s desire is for your children to do better than you and so you will provide the resources and materials that they need to ensure that they go far in life. Similarly, at the Foundation we are equipping the next generation with the tools they need to succeed”, she said.